Saturday, 28 December 2019

The Banks of the River Elbe

On the banks of the River Elbe, in the western suburbs of Hamburg, lies the prosperous district of Blankenese. It was here that the wealthy shipowners of the city had their homes. Here too was the family home of fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. His father was an importer but moved to the country when the National Socialist Government came to power. Lagerfeld returned to Blankenese in 1991 when he purchased a luxury villa.

The River is the route from the great docks of the northern city, to the North Sea and ships are constantly passing.

Not far from the Blankeneser Kirche, the parish church, was a kindergarten, the responsibility in 1960 of Pastor Georg Plattenkreig. It was the Pastor's idea that the children should have a donkey and "Mufti" soon arrived to graze the grass of a small park on the river foreshore. The children were thrilled and the good natured ass put up with being petted, cuddled and even pulled by the tail. In return "Mufti" was constantly fed apples and other treats. The donkey would often escape and it  Pastor Plate's son who would have to search for him, usually on the Blankeneser Hauptstraße, the High Street. In time "Mufti" became more and more agressive. Despite assurances that the donkey was a gelding, he was seeking female company.  Although the smaller children became afraid of him, they never came to harm. When the Bishop came to visit Provost Hasselmann, he insisted on seeing the animal. The two churchmen entered the park but "Mufti", seeing the the black cloaked figures gave chase. The Bishop being quite agile managed to escape, but the Provost had to hide in a bush until the donkey calmed down. Mufti's fate was sealed and he was dispatched in disgrace to a donkey farm on Lüneburg Heath. Here, his female companions found him quite attractive and several foals were sired by the supposed gelding.

Blankeneser Hauptstraße begins near the Stranweg Ferry Landing and winds its way up the steep hillside, doubling back on itself at a higher level. The higher the road climbs, the larger and grander are the villas that line the narrow street. These were once the homes of shipowners or merchants. Many of the former residents were Jewish and their houses are marked by plaques set in the pavement in memory of their fate. The photograph below was by Dorit Vrolijk and shows the lower part of Blankeneser Hauptstraße in 1890.

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